clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Utah death-row inmate back in court over trial questions

OGDEN — A death-row inmate headed back to court Monday contending he had ineffective legal counsel and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meddled in his 2015 trial.

The hearing comes after attorneys for Douglas Lovell raised questions about a trial that resulted in his death sentence for a second time, the Standard-Examiner reported.

Lovell, 61, killed Joyce Yost in 1985 to prevent her from testifying after he had been charged with raping her, according to court documents. Authorities said he tried to hire two other people to kill Yost before deciding to carry out the murder himself.

He pleaded guilty in 1993, agreeing to show authorities the location of Yost's body. The body was never found, leading to Lovell being sentenced to death.

The Utah Supreme Court in 2011 allowed Lovell to withdraw his guilty plea. He was then convicted at trial and again sentenced to death.

The state Supreme Court in 2017 heard the case again and sent it back to a district court to determine if Lovell's attorneys did their jobs properly and if the church asked ecclesiastical leaders to not testify.

The evidence hearing that began Monday is expected to last through Aug. 27.

Lovell says one of his former attorneys failed to properly prepare witnesses for trial. The attorney was assigned to contact 18 witnesses to testify, but a complaint claims he only contacted two.

A former prison bishop, John "Jack" Newton, said during a hearing earlier this month that church leadership suggested it would be preferable if he did not testify on behalf of Lovell at the 2015 trial. Newton worked with Lovell at the state prison.

The church has said leaders usually don't participate in legal proceedings, and defense attorneys agreed to any limitations on members' testimony.